CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University President Edward J. Ray told the OSU Faculty Senate on Thursday that the university is on target for meeting many of its student success goals; is on sound financial footing; and is continuing to implement its strategic plan while preparing a 10-year business plan.
The university set several five-year goals in 2013 and Ray said OSU is on pace to meet many of them. One such goal is to have 45 percent of the entering freshman class comprised of high-achieving Oregon high school graduates, defined as having a grade point average of 3.75 or higher; the number last fall (the most recent year of data) was 44.1 percent.
Ecampus enrollment of 2,890 is well on its way to the goal of 3,000 students. OSU’s percentage of minority students increased to 21.9 percent in fall of 2014, with a goal of 25 percent. International enrollment, which was only 4.7 percent in 2008, has increased to 11.1 percent, also on track to meet a goal of 15 percent by 2018.
“We have a lot to celebrate with regard to the goals of the strategic plan, including student success,” Ray said. “Just two years ago, we set a goal of awarding 6,000 degrees in fiscal year 2018. This year, we awarded more than 6,300 degrees.”
Ray did point out that Oregon State has fallen short of its stated goals in boosting its six-year graduation rate and first-year retention rate. “We are not providing transformative educational experiences for all learners,” Ray said, in reference to the top goal in OSU’s strategic plan.
In 2013, OSU set a series of five-year goals including a six-year graduation rate of 67 percent. Although the current rate of 63.1 percent is the highest in university history, it is below the university’s target goal, Ray said. The first-year retention rate was 83.8 percent last year – just below the 84 percent of the previous year – but the goal for 2018 is 88 percent. Graduation and retention rates for underrepresented students are lower, he added.
“We are failing to demonstrate the inclusive excellence and student success we seek as a community,” Ray said. “Right now, we are part of the problem.”
The OSU president also said he is still concerned about access to an affordable college education on a national scale. If a family is in the upper 25 percent of income levels, the likelihood of achieving a college degree is 84 percent, he pointed out. However, children in families at the lowest 25 percent only have a 9 percent chance.
“The gap in educational attainment between the haves and have-nots in this country is huge,” Ray said, “and it is increasing.”
Ray said OSU has taken several steps to help increase the success of low-income students, including implementing the Bridge to Success program that has permitted thousands of Oregon undergraduate students to work toward a degree without having to pay tuition and fees. The Campaign for OSU raised $189 million for student scholarships and fellowships, allowing even more students access to education.
As a result of these and other measures, the 2016 Fiske Guide to Colleges lists Oregon State as one of only 24 Best Buys among public colleges and universities – the third time in the last four years that OSU has received this designation.
Ray said Oregon State is bucking a national trend by being on sound financial footing – a result of The Campaign for OSU and the university’s robust enrollment and research funding.
“I know some of you have read articles regarding the alarming financial state and outlook of many universities and colleges,” Ray said. “We asked Moody’s Investors Service to provide us with a bonding rating last spring in anticipation of the sale of revenue bonds…the rating is Aa3, which is good, and the analysis carries a stable rating expectation with it.”
The OSU president told faculty that the university expects to provide mid-year salary increases of nearly 3 percent for both fiscal year 2016 and 2017. He also plans to continue adding new tenure-track positions each year.
Ray had previously requested that the university develop a 10-year business plan that will shift the focus of the university from increasing its physical footprint to renewing, renovating and repurposing existing facilities, while expanding the virtual classroom through OSU’s nationally ranked Ecampus program.
Sabah Randhawa, OSU provost and executive vice president, and Michael Bailey, OSU Faculty Senate president, have initiated a process to develop the 10-year plan that would be reviewed by the university’s Board of Trustees. Ray said he hopes a plan can be finalized by March of 2016 so it will help guide the board in its preparation for the biennial budget.
“While the state of the university is strong and there is a great deal to be proud of and to celebrate, there are persistent challenges to be met,” Ray concluded. “Our finances are strong and stable, but we must develop a business plan for the next decade. Each of you and all of our colleagues must commit to greater completion rates for all groups of students – and the completion of a business plan.
“We must graduate students from diverse backgrounds, and all students in greater numbers and at a common and higher rate, to match our promise as the people’s college.”
A full copy of Ray’s speech is available online at: http://leadership.oregonstate.edu/president/journey-continues